FECL 05 (April 1992):
It is a fact of life that in Croatia (both in the territories controlled by Croatian authorities and those controlled by the Serbs) human rights are constantly violated: in towns and villages away from the frontlines civilians are being persecuted for political and "ethnic" reasons. Dismissals and simple ejections from job, withdrawals of pensions and even citizenship, the destroying of homes, cars, shops and other property with explosives, murders and torture have become common. Please note the figures presented by our MP, Nikola Viskovic [professor of law in Split], according to which 870 people disappeared and 490 were killed away from the frontlines. The figures are based on a statement made by a member of the Croatian government.
In order not to become mere registrars of human rights violations (a task we can for the rest not fulfill with accuracy, as we often do not have the chance to learn of a case), we have decided at our Committtee for Human Rights to implement with certain modifications the idea of Nikola Viskovic to set up an SOS telephone with the purpose of protecting citizens from human rights violations. The idea was put forward for the first time at the European meeting on the freedom of media, which we organized in February in Rijeka and Opatija.
For that purpose we gathered a professional team of three solicitors and two lawyers in Rijeka, who are willing to help all persons whose human rights are in jeopardy. Whenever possible, this shall happen
With our activists and solicitors having been confronted with all the negative experiences to date, we must point out that without assistance in material and human resources of foreign organizations dealing with the protection of human rights we are not in a position to materialize such an SOS center which would at the beginning cover the whole territory of Croatia.
The assistance in manpower would consist in one to two monitors from foreign human rights organizations who would be permanently connected by hot lines with their organizations as well as with the organs of the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, authorities of their countries, all with the aim of intervening rapidly in particular cases of threats against members of the Committee of Human Rights.
Without a kind of "blue helmets" for the protection of human rights we will not be able to work with any chance of success for the prevention of violence and human rights violations.
Judging by the situation and making the most optimistic forecast, we believe that it will take at least two years to institute a regular state of rule of law. During this period we risk to be reduced to a role of helpless observers and registrars.
Let us just mention what happened at the beginning of a public round table during an international symposium on the Europe of regions and municipalities, we organized on 21/22 March in Rijeka. A group of provocateurs entered the hall were the symposium took place. One of them ordered us to expose the Croatian flag and addressed the audience of about 400 people which also included a number of prominent guests from abroad with the following words: "You will all be getting democracy on straw. Gasoline must be poured on all you present and the whole place burned."
At this moment the Democratic Forum Rijeka/Fiume is preparing the publication of a booklet on human rights which - besides texts by our collaborators - shall contain the translation into Croatian of all international conventions concerning human rights protection. All that can surely contribute to spreading the knowledge on human rights protection. We are aware that this is only a drop in the ocean of elementary needs to be met.
Furthermore, our lawyers dealing with particular cases, if citizens ever succeed in consulting them, are for the most part helpless and exposed to permanent threat.
This appeal of ours is in no way an exaggeration, but just a simple, human and friendly call for urgent help.
Thank you very much and best regards,
Lidija Runko-Luttenberger, Lela Munic
Coordinators of the Committee for Human Rights
Zoran Licul, Franci Bistricic
Coordinators of the Democratic Forum Rijeka/Fiume
Helsinki Watch has published a report on human rights violations in Croatia, including the summary execution of civilians and disarmed combattants, the torture and mistreatment of detainees, arbitrary arrests and disappearances, destruction of civilian property and the killing of journalists covering the war.
Report on Croatia, February 13, 92, Helsinki Watch, 458 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10017-6104, USA